Last week, we talked to several agents about how the new SRA will affect their business models. Most of them were unhappy, to say the least, about how the NFLPA has made the 3 percent agent fee something that will have to be negotiated instead of the default charge.
Of course, throwing a rock of this size into the water creates waves that affect more than just agents. As potential draftees have come to expect combine training (even the longest shots and lowest-rated prospects), agents have been the ones footing the bill. Will that continue under the new SRA? I wanted to get the perspective of the top trainers in the business this week, so I started with Tony Villani of Boca Raton, Fla.-based XPE Sports.
I wanted to lead off with Tony for three reasons. No. 1, he’s one of the 3-4 best trainers in the business, with a laundry list of first-rounders despite the fact he’s got just one location and built his business from scratch. No. 2, he’s one of the best guys in the football business — agents, trainers, coaches, scouts, players, bar none — and we’d be friends even if neither of us were in football anymore. He has no ego. And No. 3, he is fearless and never pulls any punches. I knew he would be great on this, and he is.
With that, I’ll turn things over to my associate, Mark Skol, who interviewed Tony.
“(The new SRA) will negatively affect the service we provide because it limits on what the agents will be able to pay for. And of course, the athletes will not understand this, and request all the bells and whistles with training which the agent can no longer afford at 1.5 percent. Honestly, everything the athletes want and desire currently with ‘combine training’ is hard to provide for an agent with the majority of athletes, even if the agent is getting 3 percent.
“I personally will not do anything differently. The few good/great agents will recruit the few good/great — on and off the field — athletes, and I hope to get a mere few. Combine training is out of control as it is. The young athletes, who are not paying themselves, expect everything, and most, not all, agents who are paying, try to pay the least amount, but tell the athletes everything is paid for. This does not make a good business model or payment structure for any business, let alone any NFL combine trainer or facility.
“This new rule is definitely a negative for combine trainers but maybe it will change for the positive. (Maybe it will prompt) . . . athletes now (to) assume their own line of credit to pay for their own training. (Maybe it will) start teaching them sooner than later what the cost is for what they ask for. But, a common practice has been (for some combine trainers to provide free training to potential) first-round picks, something I will not and have never done. I assume this will become even more the norm with agents only getting 1.5 percent.
“The first week of our combine prep, we go over what their agent is paying for, how much it costs to provide, and how long it will take for the agent to break even on their investment. This is something none of the athletes understand nor can grasp. The agents are really getting shafted on this one and the NFLPA has made being an NFL agent even a worse career choice. I highly respect the NFL agents who can run a business morally and ethically and be able to stay in business. Shame on the NFLPA for even suggesting 1.5 percent making the NFL agents by far the lowest on the pro agent totem pole. They are only following the trend concussions, injury benefits, non guaranteed contracts (to name a few) are making people realize…Why play in the NFL? But now, why represent NFL players?”